Feeling pressured to start Twitter and Facebook accounts for your environmental program, or to put in constant effort to keep them updated? Know this: Even in the age of social media, email marketing – regular e-newsletters or an occasional email promoting a new program or initiative – is still an effective tool to reach community members. Here are four reasons why:

1. Email is versatile

Emails work across a variety of platforms. A Gmail user can forward a message to Yahoo Mail and vice-versa. On the other hand, it’s more common for social media content to remain siloed in the channel in which it originated.

Regular social media users are also more likely to frequently check their email than individuals who abstain from social media, marketing agency Merkle found. In its 2010 study, 42 percent of regular social media users checked their personal email accounts four times a day or more, compared to only 26 percent of non-social media users who did the same. So even if you’re not reaching the exact same audiences across the board, it’s likely that your email campaign will successfully reach many social media users.

2. Email is mobile-friendly

According to the Pew Research Center, 52 percent of cell phone owners used their phones to send or receive email in 2013, and that number is likely to grow. Email marketing works on other mobile devices, too, such as tablets, which only increases your campaign’s reach.

3. Email is inexpensive

If you’re trying to reach community members on their smartphones, email is a much cheaper marketing tool than text messages. Emails are free for your constituents to receive, while texts may be hit with a fee. Emails can also accommodate more content than text messages, giving you more bang for your outreach buck. Even if you pay for an email marketing service like Constant Contact or MailChimp to send your emails, you’ll still be sending emails to a large group of constituents at a rate of pennies per message, whereas sending texts to that same group can be prohibitively expensive. Email marketing is also less costly than purchasing online or print ads.

4. Email is effective

The statistics don’t lie: For every dollar a small business spends on email marketing, its average return on investment is $44.25, the Direct Marketing Association found. Email marketing is also nearly 40 times more effective at helping small businesses acquire customers than Facebook and Twitter, according to McKinsey and Company. And Gigaom Research notes in this PDF report that marketers consistently ranked email as the single-most effective tactic for businesses to build awareness and attract, convert and retain customers.

Sure, those are impressive figures for small businesses, but how does this translate to government agencies? Of the 75 percent of Americans who are online, an impressive 82 percent of them say they interact with government online, according to a report from the Pew Research Center. Yes, the mission of local governments is very different from that of a small business that is looking to woo and maintain a loyal customer base. But, at the end of the day, your goal is to communicate your message effectively, encourage participation and elicit engagement from your community. So even if you’re publicizing an e-waste collection event or promoting a new food waste program, these goals mirror the aims of a business looking to promote a service or product.

That’s why email marketing isn’t just a valuable outreach tool for businesses – it’s effective for cities and counties, too.

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